Scientists from the University of Manchester have made a breakthrough in the treatment of childhood arthritis after discovering 14 new genes which could help understanding of the condition.
Experts from the university’s Arthritis Research worked with international scientists on the research by looking at DNA extracts from blood and saliva samples from 2,000 children who suffer from the illness.
Childhood arthritis affects one in 1,000 people in the UK, and is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors.
Dr Anne Hinks, joint leader of the study, said: “To identify these 14 genetic risk factors is quite a big breakthrough.
“It will help us to understand what’s causing the condition, how it progresses and then to potentially develop new therapies.”
Scientists say the study will help health workers better control the pain management, quality of life and long-term outcome of child arthritis sufferers.
Dr Hinks added: “Childhood arthritis is a specific type of arthritis quite separate from types found in adults and there’s been only a limited amount of research into this area in the past.”
Currently, 30% of children with the disease continue to suffer as they enter adulthood.
Professor Alan Silman of Arthritis Research UK, who part-funded the work, said the results will add significant amount to their knowledge of the disorder.
He said: “We have known for some time that there is a strong genetic contribution to a child’s risk of developing juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
“However, only three genetic risk factors had been identified.”
Experts added that the two-year study will ultimately help clinicians to better manage children with the disease and give potential to develop new therapies.
Professor Silman added: “Further work is now required to investigate each of these regions in more detail, to enable us to understand how they are involved in disease development and identify potential new therapeutic targets.”